Musicians from the Pontifical Church in Kyoto, Japan, 1863-1864.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Engraving from 'Zhivopisnaia Iaponiia', (St Petersburg, 1870), a Rusian translation of 'Le Japon illustree' ('Japan illustrated'), (Paris, 1870) by Swis diplomat Aime Humbert (1819-1900) who spent two years in Japan from 1863 to 1864. Humbert surveyed all aspects of Japanese cultural life including its music. Here, musicians play traditional musical instruments: drums, a flute, and a free-reed mouth organ (the 'sho'). As Envoy Extraordinary Minister Plenipotentiary for Switzerland, Humbert travelled to areas inaccesible to the ordinary person. The text illustrates and discuses the life, customs and activities of the Japanese, before the influence of foreign powers; the engravings are based on sketches and photographs done while en route.